I don't know what Sundays mean to you. For me, they are the days to relax, go to a museum, or sit down and think.
And today, here is a story which made me think about our future.
Our guide for today is J.F. Rischard, the World Bank's vice president for Europe.
Two great forces, one demographic and one economic, will bring dramatic change to every corner of the globe over the next 20 years. The demographic force, as we go from 5 billion people on the planet in 1990 to 8 billion by 2025, will produce an array of environmental and social stresses. And an entirely new world economy -- centered on increasingly inexpensive telecommunication and computer technologies, and a shift to market-type policies by virtually all countries -- will bring unprecedented opportunities and challenges.
These two forces are exponential, not linear. The new world economy reflects exponential plenty, while the demographics reflect exponential scarcity -- scarcity of arable land, of potable water, of individual space. And they therefore overwhelm our linear, evolving, snail-paced human institutions. The resulting governance gap has many manifestations: financial crises, voters who no longer trust their politicians to solve problems, and a kind of bad mood in political life all over the world. But the most calamitous result is the failure to address urgent global problems.
These problems can't be solved within any one nation-state; they call for collaborative action. There are about 20 such global problems, and they fall into three categories: how we share our living space, how we share our rule book, and how we share our humanity. From fishery depletion, to E-commerce rules, to communicable diseases, these problems all need solving in the next 20 years, not the next 30, 40, or 50.
The current international systems simply aren't effective enough, or fast-moving enough, to solve these problems.
The best alternative, it seems to me, is to set up a permanent Global Issues Network for each problem. These GINs would include representatives from governments concerned by the issue at hand, knowledgeable representatives from business--whether business is part of the problem or part of the solution--and representatives from international nongovernmental organizations that know the issue well.
For more details, please read the full list of the "20 Global Problems For The Year 2020."
Source: J.F. Rischard, for Optimize, September 2002, Issue 11
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